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A meticulously researched history of the western film that is now ranked with "Shane" and "The Searchers." Much of the book's focus is on Sam Peckinpah, the movie's visionary, eccentric director. It was a labor of love that had been incubating in Peckinpah's mind for many years and, after the disaster of "Major Dundee,"his professional future rested upon its success. Much to the displeasure of Warner Brothers, he insisted upon assembling his own crew and hiring a cast of actors who, with the exception of William Holden, were not box-office draws. A fascinating look at the evolution of a landmark film and its brilliant creator. — Alden Graves
For the fiftieth anniversary of the film, W.K. Stratton's definitive history of the making of The Wild Bunch, named one of the greatest Westerns of all time by the American Film Institute.
Sam Peckinpah's film The Wild Bunch, named one of the greatest films of all time by the American Film Institute, is the story of a gang of outlaws who are one big steal from retirement. When their attempted train robbery goes awry, the gang flees to Mexico and falls in with a brutal general of the Mexican Revolution, who offers them the job of a lifetime. Conceived by a stuntman, directed by a blacklisted director, and shot in the sand and heat of the Mexican desert, the movie seemed doomed. Instead, it became an instant classic with a dark, violent take on the Western movie tradition.
In The Wild Bunch, W.K. Stratton tells the fascinating history of the making of the movie and documents for the first time the extraordinary contribution of Mexican and Mexican-American actors and crew members to the movie's success. Shaped by infamous director Sam Peckinpah, and starring such visionary actors as William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Edmond O'Brien, and Robert Ryan, the movie was also the product of an industry and a nation in transition. By 1968, when the movie was filmed, the studio system that had perpetuated the myth of the valiant cowboy in movies like The Searchers had collapsed, and America was riled by Vietnam, race riots, and assassinations. The Wild Bunch spoke to America in its moment, when war and senseless violence seemed to define both domestic and international life.
The Wild Bunch is an authoritative history of the making of a movie and the era behind it.
"In his detailed and passionately argued history of The Wild Bunch, writer W.K. Stratton takes the debate to a higher level and convincingly positions the film as the best Western ever made—and among the greatest of movies. Stratton collects the kinds of elements required for a lively movie backstory: a talented if irascible director, quirky cast and crew members, a difficult location shoot and a controversial reception by moviegoers and critics. Best of all, he recounts how an idea becomes a film and the creative, economic and fate-driven roadblocks it faces." - Associated Press
"Insightful and engaging, Stratton’s book will hold the attention of even those who despise the movie." - Roundup Magazine
"Reading W.K. Stratton’s fine book after watching The Wild Bunch can make for a rich aesthetic feast." - The Washington Post
"Definitive . . . Stratton’s book is part making-of chronicle, part appreciation, part personal reminiscence. . . . He’s not a film critic, but a passionate and knowledgeable generalist who knows how to drill deep." - Vulture
"Sam Peckinpah’s classic western is lovingly picked over in this obsessive treatment of its making and reception." - New York Times Book Review, in New & Noteworthy
"No person of sensibility who has seen The Wild Bunch has not felt the extraordinary richness of lived experience that courses throughout the film. This is one of many things that lifts it far above the action genre and the Western to the epic. It is a singular achievement of W. K. Stratton’s book on its making that he shows this was not adventitious . . . Stratton documents how Peckinpah’s masterpiece became not only a great film but one of the enduringly great artworks of the past century." - Paul Seydor, author of THE AUTHENTIC DEATH AND CONTENTIOUS AFTERLIFE OF PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID: The Untold Story of Peckinpah’s Last Western Film
"Stratton’s book examines the history of the Western and details the ambition and, at times, lunacy of making what has become an American classic." - Newsweek
"Muscular study . . . Stratton pulls together big strands of story: the history of the Mexican revolutionary period, Peckinpah's own fascination with Mexico, the history of U.S.-Mexico relations, the history of moviemaking itself. . . Essential reading for fans of the epochal (and reportedly soon to be remade) movie as well as movie-history and Western buffs generally." - starred review, 11 Early 2019 Books We Love, Kirkus Reviews
"Stratton paints a wonderfully full portrait of director Sam Peckinpah and his quest for a more realistic depiction of violence at a time when the brutality of the Vietnam War was increasingly penetrating American living rooms. . . . What’s most striking here is the depth of Stratton’s research, with attention given to every aspect of, and player in, the film. This engaging, well-researched book belongs in every library and in the hands of every student of cinema." - starred review, Library Journal
"Stratton does a fine job of putting the film in its historical context . . . THE WILD BUNCH is a valuable addition to the literature of American film history and will be greeted by Wild Bunch devotees with adoration." - starred review, Booklist
"Stratton’s thorough research yields a fascinating perspective on how Peckinpah created a western of unparalleled realism and intensity." - Publishers Weekly